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Mercyhurst reaps gains of test-optional policy

Friday, July 31, 2015

Last year, Mercyhurst University joined a growing number of colleges and universities in the realization that the best and the brightest students aren’t necessarily the ones who can outscore the competition on standardized tests, that there are other, perhaps better, ways of measuring ability and predicting success.

As the first university in the Erie area to adopt a test-optional admissions policy, Mercyhurst is proud to announce that 55 students among its 2015 incoming class of 700 new students are attending by virtue of the new policy.

Just this week, The Washington Post reported that George Washington University in D.C. was the newest major school to drop its requirement that freshman applicants must submit SAT or ACT test scores for admissions consideration. The Washington Post also said 850 of the nation’s 3,000 accredited, bachelor-degree granting schools had adopted the test-optional policy and listed the top 181 nationally ranked universities in that cohort, among them Wake Forest, NYU, Fairfield University, Providence College and Mercyhurst University.

“These young people are largely first-generation college students, some of whom are underrepresented minorities or refugees and, by virtue of language, limited school resources,  and/or cultural differences,  are at a disadvantage when it comes to performing well on standardized tests, and yet they are gifted in many other areas predictive of success in college,” said Mercyhurst Undergraduate Admissions Director Christian Beyer in describing the university’s test-optional enrollees.

Among them is an African-American male from a charter school in Pittsburgh, who has enrolled as a fashion merchandising major. He graduated with a 3.4 GPA and was active in theater, yearbook and student government.

Another African-American, this one a female from Erie’s Strong Vincent High School, earned a 4.0 GPA and was active in the National Honor Society. She is coming to Mercyhurst to study criminal justice.

A homeschooled young woman from the Midwest, having been engaged in orchestra, theater and chorus, will attend Mercyhurst as a music major this fall.

Beyer said the majority of universities that have gone test optional report an increase in the cultural, racial, socioeconomic and gender diversity of their student body while graduation and retention rates have remained stable.

He said Mercyhurst’s inaugural cohort of test-optional students holds an average GPA of 3.06, which is consistent with the academic quality of the overall incoming class of new students, whose average GPA is 3.28.

Aside from their solid academic performance in high school, this group exhibits character traits like persistence and resilience; talent; leadership ability and extracurricular and community engagement, Beyer noted.

“Mercyhurst has never reduced students to numbers and has historically taken a holistic approach to admissions,” said Mercyhurst Vice President for Enrollment Joseph Howard.  “Being a test-optional school allows us to focus more on the individual, which is consistent with our mission.”

In addition to the pioneering 55, Mercyhurst will welcome new students from 33 states and 26 countries; 12 percent are underrepresented minorities. The top majors among this group are biology, criminal justice, intelligence studies, forensic anthropology, psychology, hospitality and sports medicine.

For more information, please contact the Mercyhurst Admissions Department at 814-824-2202.